Pinole, Hercules, San Pablo without 911 service for a week

Pinole police figured out why the 911 communications line went down twice this month – the first time for more than a week. 

It turns out that two men were arrested in connection to stealing copper cables, which took out the emergency system as well as the regular phone system for the cities of Pinole, Hercules and San Pablo. 

Jesus Arias-Ayala, 31, of Hayward and Daniel Mena-Diaz, 49, of Richmond were arrested in connection with felony vandalism and damaging telephone lines. Mena-Diaz was also arrested in connection with violating probation. One of the suspects, police said, was found cutting copper cable tools when he was arrested.

They were later charged with two felonies for vandalism and cutting utility lines.

Pinole Cmdr. Matt Avery told KTVU on Tuesday that one more suspect is outstanding. 

As Avery explained, the first time the three East Bay cities lost 911 service was on June 4 – and that issue lasted for a week.

The 911 system went down again on June 22, and it's still not working three days later. 

"We are still down," Avery said. 

Avery said police officers were notified of the most recent 911 outage by Richmond dispatchers via radio. Officers went out to determine the cause and found three suspects who they determined cut the AT&T cables in an undisclosed location. 

Officers found them running away through a field, Avery said, and were able to catch up with two of them.

In the June 4 theft, Avery said the suspects took roughly 400 feet of copper cable, which cost AT&T about $100,000 to repair. On Saturday, the suspects didn't finish stealing the cables, Avery said.

Avery didn't know the street value of the copper, but said thieves like to resell the copper to recycling and metal facilities. 

He added that detectives are still trying to determine whether the suspects who who arrested are responsible for the earlier cable theft. 

When the 911 lines go down in Pinole, Hercules and San Pablo, the emergency calls are routed to the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office, where dispatchers then use a backup phone system to call the cities' dispatchers, Avery said. 

"So we are still receiving 911 calls," Avery said. 

The lag time might be up to 30 seconds and is similar to when callers use a cell phone to call 911 and those calls are routed to the California Highway Patrol, whose dispatchers then patch them through to individual police agencies. 

Still, it's an extra load the cities don't want to incur. 

"Well, obviously, we want to be able to provide as fast as service, as possible to our citizens," he said. "They're taxpayers. It's a service we provide. And also it is a burden on the sheriff's department to answer additional phone calls." 

Vandalism caused to the AT&T phone lines in Pinole. Photo: Pinole police 

A conduit stripped wire in Pinole that caused the 911 lines to go down. Photo: Pinole police

A screwdriver found by Pinole police. 

A ratchet PVC cutter found on Daniel Mena-Diaz. Photo: Pinole police